Sicilians, like many other Mediterranean people, give little gifts of sugared almonds to all their friends when celebrating the key events in their lives. If they are fancily wrapped sugared almonds, they are called confetti. If the almonds also have a gift attached, the whole thing is called a bomboniera.
Sicilians take this art form to a higher level than any other people, and they attach more importance to them than anyone else.
You give friends, relations, acquaintances and neighbours confetti or a bomboniera when you get married, when your baby is born, and christened, and when your child has first communion. You give them for every life-changing event you live through, as a way of requesting good wishes from everyone. You have better not miss anyone out, for that would be one of the many unforgivable social gaffes that can make living in Sicily feel like picking your way through a minefield for outsiders.
The almonds as well as the packaging have special colours. Weddings are white, baby boys have light blue and girls have pink. The confetti for a first communion are usually yellow. When you get your degree, you give everyone confetti in red. For your silver wedding anniversary you can actually get sugared almonds coated in edible silver.
There’s a whole cultural background to know in this art form, for not only do you have to get the right colours, but you have to know the symbolism of different types of flowers, or animals, or even materials used.
Confetti are for celebrations, so the only important life event which is not commemorated by giving them out is a funeral. Eating the sugared almonds you have received is a way of bringing good fortune and good wishes – auguri – to the person who gave them. The confetti for any social event will cost several hundred euros, but even poor people always spend money on them, which shows how important they are considered.
Bombonieri are so beautifully wrapped and decorated that their creation is an art form. When people have eaten the almonds, they usually save the gift and display it in their glass cabinet, or somewhere else in the house, as a memento of the wedding or christening party they enjoyed. Glass and silver are popular materials for bomboniere gifts.
When ordering confetti, you first choose the almonds: some are not just coated with coloured sugar, but have a layer of chocolate or other flavours between the almond and the sugar layer. Then you work on the design together with the shopkeeper, choosing from her massive selection of ribbons, materials, figurines, silver trinkets, porcelain and glasswares. You collect your confetti a few weeks later when she has made them all.
I found a website based in Sicily which supplies all the paraphernalia for confetti online. Their online calatogues are simply amazing.
This “cake” is the traditional form of bomboniere for a christening party. If you look carefully, each slice of the “cake” is actually a little cardboard box. It has sugared almonds wrapped in coloured material inside, and a little gift on the top.
The variety of confetti available is limited only by the confetti-maker’s imagniation. I had never seen one like this before – it’s a two-tier cake made of nappies! Where do the almonds go, I wonder? And would anyone want to eat them?
I AM STILL ON HOLIDAY IN ENGLAND TILL THE END OF AUGUST. THE WEATHER HERE HAS BEEN ABOUT 36 OR 37 DEGREES FOR THE LAST MONTH, WHICH HUBBY (WHO IS AT HOME WORKING OVERTIME) TELLS ME IS HOTTER THAN SICILY THIS YEAR.